What is your passion for what you do?
Some of my highest earning jobs were in tipping professions. People recognize and appreciate being served; it’s the language of love for some. Tips are a social norm for giving back, and I have worked on the art of serving for many years.
The best tips, however, are not monetary.
Those with wisdom earned what they possess and recognize its value. They also recognize these pearls are not meant to be hoarded, even if most don’t appreciate the value of the pearl. I am not one of those people. I’ve been collecting bags of pearls my whole life. A pearl as a tip was one more added to the pile.
Some of those pearls increased in value over time, so much so that if they were assigned a monetary value, I would feel compelled to give it back. “Hey, I don’t think you recognize what you gave me!” I know what they would say. “Pay it forward.” I agree with this principal (it taps into a spiritual law) but if those debts were tabulated, it would be a big debt!
Sometimes, when I feel discouraged, I look back to all of those who invested in me, and my sense of indebtedness gets me back on my feet. I don’t want to let those people down, even if we lost contact long ago.
That, my friends, is a motive, one of a few I have. If you desire to be a strong servant-leader, you need to have strong motives. Otherwise, you are destined to fail, no matter the abundance of character traits you possess.
One obvious reason is that motives are the foundation from which goals are derived. Your career goals are often motivated by obtaining what you want in life and supporting yourself and your family. Even if you work at a level where “career goals” don’t apply, being able to eat each day is a powerful motivator! In the mental health profession, an additional motivation is often personal experience: substance counselors often have a personal experience with addiction, psychiatric professionals often have a family member with psychosis (or even live with one!), and so on.
These motivations, however, are not sufficient for the servant-leader. There has to be something more. Religion, a higher power, a higher level of moral reasoning, or some other motivation that is beyond caring for one’s base needs or a desire to care and help, is necessary to endure as a servant-leader.
Why? Because you need endurance for the copious amounts of discouragement and disappointment you will experience during the journey of your transformation into a servant-leader.
Let me provide a personal example, a process echoed by many servant-leaders. Early in my life, I didn’t feel as if I earned much approval from my father (a phenomenon observed with many men and issues of masculinity). My father was continually obsessed with “doing a job right”, so I endeavored to learn how to do everything “right” to earn his approval. My motive was perfectionism, and it worked…for a little while (it helped me to be successful when cleaning up after mice). Yet, I became discouraged when I didn’t win my father’s approval, as whatever I did never seemed to be enough (the curse of perfectionism).
During this time, I worked for a servant-leader who was starting a new company. Without really knowing why, I talked to him about my problem one day. His response? To cease living for the approval of others and to live for myself. In other words, change my motives.
Now, living selfishly may not sound like good advice, but it was better than trying to earn someone else’s approval. It was the right advice at the right time: living selfishly for a period of my life led to self-discovery and finding my true self.
What drives a person to reexamine their motives? When the old motive no longer sufficiently powers that person through the challenges and suffering encountered. My motives would continue to evolve over time as I faced new challenges and the associated suffering, causing me to reexamine myself in iterative fashion.
I firmly believe that burn-out happens for many professionals when their present motives are no longer sufficient and they refuse to reexamine their motives. They start going through the motions and lose the spirit at the core of service, servants, and servant-leaders.
Show me a servant-leader with ample character traits and noble visions, and I’ll highlight a cycle of suffering and purification of those traits and visions which began long before the finished product you show me. The context is different for each servant-leaders, but the themes and processes remain the same.
Which brings me to one last point. Servant-leaders do not address where they think a person ought to be, but rather where they are presently. Every great servant-leader I have witnessed is consistently challenging their people to strive for more, reach higher, and become more than they were yesterday. This includes motives, as the servant-leader recognizes that in order for real change to happen, motives have to be examined and re-examined.
As a wise person once said, the unexamined life is not worth living.
I’ll pose the question again. What is your motive?